A Lifetime of Persistence Pt 2

Posted on December 7, 2008. Filed under: People to Follow | Tags: , , , , , |

We left off Napoleon just as he was promised a typewriter in exchange for changing his wild habits and working toward some better ones.  Martha Hill, his step-mother, had great hopes for all the Hills, and even 115 years later, we could learn a lot from the way she handled her husband and stepsons.  Here’s a quote from the book, “A Lifetime of Riches” by Michael J. Ritt Jr. and Kirk Landers:

“[Martha] patiently constructed a close, individual relationship with her troubled stepson.  She didn’t force the stubborn, hot-tempered boy to do things, for this would most certainly have produced failure.  Instead, she treated him like the person she wanted him to become – an intelligent, hard-working, independent lad who would set constructive goals for himself and achieve them. ”

” ‘People are wrong about you, Napoleon,’ she said.  ‘You’re not the worst boy in the county, only the most active.  You jst need to direct your energy toward accomplishing something worthwhile.’  In the course of this conversation, Martha suggested that Napoleon consider becoming a writer because of his keen imagination and gutsy initiative. ‘If you will devote as much time to reading and writing as you have to causing trouble,’ she concluded, ‘you might live to see the time when your influence will be felt throughout the state.’ ” (pp. 8-9)

How important it is to have somebody believe in you early in life!  As adults, we are in large part a product of the messages we are given about ourselves early in life.  We take those on and make them part of our identity.  That’s not exactly news – the “self-esteem movement” in child development circles of the 1980s and 1990s was built on that. 

At the same time, notice how Martha Hill’s belief and support was accompanied by some real expectations.  She didn’t just say “You’re smart honey, and you’re really wild, and that’s the way you are.”  She directed that energy in a new direction.  What’s more, she persuaded Napoleon to be responsible in himself for that change in direction.  She suggested a goal, but ultimately it was Napoleon who internalized the goal and worked with passion and diligence to achieve it.

This is something I try to instill in both myself and in my children.  We are all working to become something.  What is the worthwhile thing we want to do?  Who is the person of worth we want to be?  How can you reveal that person of worth right now?

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